Inspired by the contrasting images of her homeland, Maha Malluh's work explores the symbolic and cultural elements of Saudi Arabian civilisation in a modern context. She has worked with a variety of media including drawing, painting, photography, photograms and mixed-media installation.Read More
Maha Malluh was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 1959. She studied art history at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas (1980); English literature at King Saud University in Riyadh (1993); and design and photography at California's De Anza College (2000). Malluh considers herself a self-taught artist.
Malluh's work explores her spiritual attachment to the historic region of Najd, a central region in Saudi Arabia. Through her work, she also criticises the growing culture of putting value on the acquisition of material wealth in the capitalistic world.
She is known mostly for her mixed-media installations that often incorporate found objects symbolically representing Saudi Arabian culture such as traditional enamel dishes, cassette recordings of religious lectures, oil barrels or iconic architectural elements commonly used in regional architecture. In her work entitled Al-Muallaqat from the series 'Food for Thought' (2012), she hung across a wall several aluminium cooking pots commonly used across Saudi Arabia. The title of the piece links the installation to pre-Islamic Suspended Odes that used to traditionally be hung in Mecca.
Malluh is also known for her photograms, made by exposing arrangements of objects and photosensitive paper to light. The personal objects in the 2005 photogram series 'Capturing Light', for example, recall the tension between finding joy in the mundane while resisting consumerism.
In 2015, her exhibition Translated at Galerie Krinzinger in Vienna brought together several works which toy with the metamorphic quality of objects. One such work, Sky Clouds (2009–2015) saw 700 black polyester gloves filled with polyester and desert sand placed vertically on Islamic prayer rugs. The exhibition was a direct reference to notions of transformation, globalisation and celebration of aesthetic beauty outside of familiar cultural conditioning.
Maha Malluh's works have been the subject of many exhibitions since 1976. Her first solo show Capturing Light was held at Gallery O in Riyadh in 2007. Her work has also been exhibited at several Edge of Arabia exhibitions; the British Museum's Hajj exhibition (2012); the 57th Venice Biennale (2017); Saatchi Gallery, London (2016); Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna (2015, 2019); Art Basel Unlimited (2014); Hauser and Wirth, London (2013); the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris (2012, 2014).
Mullah's works are part of a number of private and public collections including: Louvre Abu Dhabi; Guggenheim Abhu Dhabi; UBS; British Museum, London; BASMOCA, Jeddah; Tate Modern, London; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and The MAC Museum, Vienna.
Maha Malluh lives and works in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Maha Malluh's Instagram can be found here.
Leila Sajjadi | Ocula | 2021